In my coaching circles last week, we talked about pleasure and joy… and how it can feel wrong, like a betrayal to feel pleasure when so many others are suffering. And somewhere in my heart I know that joy is precisely the thing to reach for- not in an effort to numb out or step over the suffering- but to include joy and pleasure in our lives as well. So that we can be resilient. So that we can not go into collapse or despair. So that we can stay buoyant enough to bring more light and right action into the world.
The most recent episode of Brené Brown’s podcast addresses this as well. She is in conversation with my friend Karen Walrond (whose recent book is about how to work for change without losing your joy) and there are some zingers in there: “We can’t fight for what’s not in our hearts” and “If we feel guilt about the joy, the bad guys win.”
And so today, I want to offer up a practice. A simple cataloging of small pleasures that will connect you to joy inside of whatever life is throwing at you.
- Take out a piece of paper and make a list (either numbered or in prose form) of everything you can think of that is beauty or delight to you. It could be the delicious cup of coffee in front of you, the sound of the birds outside or the quiet of a house with everyone still asleep. Anything.
- Write quickly for 10 minutes, without taking the pen off the page. Let the most random things come. Everything is welcome.
- Share it. With a friend, on the socials, or keep it just for you.
Here is mine:
A park full of dogs, the feel of a warm puppy tongue in my hand when I offer them a treat, the smell of my neighbor’s jasmine. The salmon we had last night cooked in butter and encrusted with sesame seeds. A nice pen, a heart-shaped rock, a candle that smells like tobacco and vanilla, a good haircut that lasts beyond the six weeks, big brass earrings so light they don’t pull on your ears.
The juxtaposition of lemons against a blue sky, chocolate and hazelnuts, perfect avocados, playing pickleball with Nico and the moment we meet at the net at the end of the match and tap our rackets together and say, “good game.”
Small pleasures. Ben’s genuine smile and laugh when I tell him he’s gonna be so ripped after a few more weeks of water polo, and the sound of a group of teenagers huddled in the dark at the entrance to school at 6am for practice, the way they shout his name as he gets out of the car.
Juniper, sandalwood, jasmine coriander… this is what my candle says and I could recite that over and over again, juniper, sandalwood, jasmine, coriander.
And it reminds me of a boy I dated in my 20’s in San Francisco, who was a pastry chef and who at the beginning of our dates would tell me about the desserts he made that night – nectarine panna cotta with a pomegranate syrup and fresh mint.. Chocolate soufflé cake with a raspberry glaze.
Small pleasures. Hot water on my back in the shower, the smell of that shampoo I use on my body because I like the smell so much. That recording I found yesterday of Nico, from when he was 3 and how I asked him what his favorite sport was and he said, “Shock-o! And tennis!” and my heart physically hurt listening to his little raspy voice and it was pleasure all the same.
In my book, Wonder Seeker, I talk about how our attention matters. How wonder is a pointing of our attention on the present, on what delights. You can reach for this at any moment. You can put on your wonder goggles and see through that lens. No matter how messy the world can be, we can still see beauty alongside everything else.
p.s. Photo above was licensed from a talented Ukrainian artist Vradiy Art.